Testimonial: I've Been on Birth Control For 20 Years
I started my period when I was 15 years old. I went to the bathroom and found blood all over my underwear, pants and thighs. It was rich and purple, complete with clots. It was the worst period I'd had to date, but it wouldn't be the last.
Months went on and my period continued to be outrageously heavy. I'd often wake up in the night to change pads and tampons, sleeping on a towel to protect the mattress. My periods wouldn't stop. They would last three weeks at a time, skip a week, then come back in full force with a vengeance.
I didn't know what to do or how to live a normal life. My parents thought I had mono because I was so exhausted all the time. I was depressed and didn't want to go to school, constantly in pain. I went to doctors upon doctors—and finally, a gynecologist.
The solution...kind of
The gynecologist had a simple explanation: My unfertilized eggs were not being shed properly so my body was constantly trying to flush them out. The solution? Hormonal birth control.
The doctor started me on a pill that I quickly realized was not going to work. The first morning I took it, I was sent home from school after only a few hours. I felt nauseous and weak, and all the color was drained from my face. I was so pale that the teacher sent a friend to walk me to the nurse in case I were to pass out. When I got into my mother's car, I closed the door only to open it immediately and vomit on the sidewalk.
The vomiting was a common side effect, according to my doctor, and simply meant the hormone levels weren't right for me. So I went on a lighter version, which worked. It made my period appear only once a month and last seven to nine days, which was a short period for me. Still, my flow was heavy and I was plagued with nausea at times. At this point, I started taking my pill after dinner, and it seemed a full belly combated any nausea. I stuck with this habit until I began drinking and realized the combination of alcohol with the pill also made me vomit.
Trying something new—again
I had finally gotten into a rhythm of some sort, managing my periods with birth control with minimal side effects, but that wouldn't last long. In my sophomore year of college, I was again thrown for a loop when I went to the health center to get a refill on my prescription. When they saw what pill I was on, they gave me the generic version without consulting me. I took it, trusting the doctors, and experienced spotting for months.
I had to call several times to get the original prescription that had worked. I was exhausted having to convince medical professionals I knew my body and the spotting I had was not normal.
Then, In my early 20s, I moved states and found a new gynecologist. When she tried to get me the birth control I asked for it was no longer available. So then came birth control number four. Again, it sufficed: My periods were monthly with no spotting, lasting seven to nine days. This new pill was better for me because it only had four placebos, which meant the last three days of my period the pills escalated hormones to make my flow lighter and lighter each day.
A year later, when my doctor asked me how it was going, I told her how nice it was to have a period that was usually gone on day seven or eight. She was surprised at how long my periods were lasting and even more shocked when I revealed they used to be even longer.
And then she told me, "You don't have to live like that." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I'd lived like that for so long, the possibility of a solution was overwhelming. She wrote me a new prescription for the generic form of Seasonique.
I'd seen the commercials for Seasonique (levonorgestrel, Ethinyl estradiol) and it seemed like a form of miracle birth control. The lucky women on Seasonique only got their period every three months, or only four times a year. Now, I would be one of those lucky women, not bound to my couch or bed once a month. I took a chance, trusted my doctor and nine years later, I'm still happily on the generic form of Seasonique.
The Goldilocks of birth control
I still can't quite believe how lucky I am to have found a gynecologist who listens and advocates for my quality of life. With her help, I have built trust with my medical team. So much trust, in fact, that if Seasonque stopped working for me—I would take whatever next option my doctor suggested. Having this trust, understanding and open communication with my gynecologist has made a world of difference when it comes to my relationship with birth control.
For me and many other women, finding the right birth control is kind of a Goldilocks situation. Trial and error has been my story, and it took years to find something that worked for me. When it comes to finding birth control for your body, a ton of patience is required. It's a frustrating conundrum that women are faced with throughout their menstruating years, but by working closely with my gynecologist, I was able to find the best birth control for me so far and it has greatly improved my quality of life. So I'm content...for now.